- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2016

A pair of thrillers and the rise of a powerful commander in chief spotlight the best in Blu-ray movies this week.

Money Monster (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, $34.99, 99 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio) — Director Jodie Foster offered a tale of the excesses in the financial world and its impact on the simple investor in a thriller enjoyed by movie audiences earlier this year.

Now ready for home theater appreciation, the story finds a pompous stock-advising TV host, Lee Gates (George Clooney), taken hostage in his studio and forced to wear an explosive vest by an enraged blue-collar investor Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) during a live broadcast.

Mr. Budwell looks to expose Mr. Gates as a fraud after he lost his savings due to one of his investment tips in a company that mysteriously lost $800 million due to a supposed trading program anomaly. It will take Mr. Gates’ director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) to keep heads cool and, more importantly, keep her star alive.

A proficient digital transfer highlights the nail-biting tension between Mr. Budwell and Mr. Gates in the confined set.

However, the acting might of Mr. Clooney with Miss Roberts carries the film as they deliver some enthusiastic performances.


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Best extras: Three promotional featurettes (roughly 23 minutes in total) offer interviews with the key actors and production staff and spotlight Mr. Clooney’s character, the making of the movie (with plenty of words from Miss Foster) and an explanation/deconstruction of the dramatic ending.

Miss Foster often talks about assembling the film like a jigsaw puzzle — with the perspective between filming a television show and a movie adding to its complexity.

All the Way (HBO Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $39.99, 132 minutes, 1.78:1 aspect ratio) — Bryan Cranston transformed into President Lyndon B. Johnson in an excellent biographical drama from a Broadway play that was adapted for the cable channel.

Now available on Blu-ray, it offers the chance for history buffs to not only scrutinize Mr. Cranston’s impeccable performance in a screen-filling presentation but also revisit the turmoil of the mid to late 1960s.

The movie finds President Johnson attempting to fulfill the dreams of his assassinated predecessor by passing civil rights legislation and him ultimately succeeding in his 1964 re-election bid amid the escalation of the Vietnam War.

Director Jay Roach gets outstanding support from actors Anthony Mackie (Martin Luther King Jr.), Melissa Leo (Lady Bird Johnson), Bradley Whitford (Hubert Humphrey) and Stephen Root (J. Edgar Hoover) to cement this complex political journey.

Best extras: The thin selection of bonus content only presents a 2-minute look at Mr. Cranston getting into makeup and a much-too-short 10-minute overview of President Johnson and the time period.

However, this was a missed opportunity to include a deeper documentary on “Landslide Lyndon” that would give viewers a better reason to make “All the Way” a permanent part of their Blu-ray library.

Now You See Me 2 (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $39.99, 129 minutes, 2.40:1 aspect ratio) — A group of elite magicians get back together to pull off another mind-boggling heist in director Jon M. Chu’s sequel to the popular 2013 film.

The vaulted four Horsemen — J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Lula May (Lizzy Caplan) — and leader Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) must once again battle Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and new villain Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) while being forced to steal a device that can hack into any computer system in the world.

Home theater viewers should be sufficiently dazzled by the slightly long-winded action film with a digital transfer  that dazzles during outdoor scenes in Macau and a nighttime London.

Throughout, the actors look like they are having too much fun onscreen, often sparked by Miss Caplan’s giddy performance. I especially enjoyed a scene involving a session of hide and seek with a playing card.

“Now You See Me 2” is the “Ocean’s 11” of magic caper movies with enough plot twists to make Harry Houdini queasy.

Best extras: A generous trio of featurettes offers almost an extra hour overview of the production focused on the ensemble cast, location shooting, practical and digital special effects, and the real magic tricks. Each is filled with actor and crew interviews including words from consultants such as legendary prestidigitator David Copperfield.

Better yet, Mr. Chu offers an optional commentary track where he talks near non-stop about the production.

He enlightens viewers with nuggets such as shooting parts of the movie with a drone, setting up shots with Woody Harrelson acting with himself (evil brother Chase) and stressing the theme of family throughout the film.

Mr. Chu also offers that the inspiration for a collection of classic magic tricks found in a secret area in Macau’s Iong’s Magic Shop was based on David Copperfield’s private Vegas museum, and how much fun he had pranking Mr. Freeman to get the veteran actor to laugh (he eventually broke).

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